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Clarence Valley News

Resident reveals ‘errors’ in Clarence Valley council’s annual report

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NSW Northern Rivers Breaking News

Resident reveals ‘errors’ in Clarence Valley council’s annual report

By Tim Howard

A Yamba resident who feels Clarence Valley Council has unfairly targeted her, her husband and a neighbour, says she has uncovered a mass of errors in the last council annual report.
The 2020-21 annual report was contentious for the council. It was delivered late and sent to the NSW Office of Local Government just inside its November 30 deadline.
After Cr Karen Toms uncovered errors in the report, a corrected version was approved and sent to the OLG without informing the council, which was a breach of procedure.
With another opportunity to send the report further errors were uncovered, and the corrected came to the December 3 extraordinary meeting for approval.
Ironically in an answer to a question from Cr Peter Ellem, if she was sure this document was free of errors, Ms Black replied “100%”.
But Yamba resident Lynne Cairns begs to differ, having scrutinised the document carefully and uncovering a swathe of questionable entries.
Mrs Cairns, her husband Bob and a nearby resident Shane Powell are well known to the council.
Midway through 2021 the council’s acting general manager, Laura Black, placed the trio on the council’s Unreasonable Complainant Category list.
She said the trio had been too persistent in seeking information about a development at 19 Gumnut Rd, Yamba, next door to Mr Powell’s residence.
She said this had exposed staff to unreasonable levels of stress, which could have posed a health risk.
She also turned down a GIPA request for the information.
A report from the NSW Privacy Commissioner found council had erred in not providing the residents with the information they required.
At the same extraordinary meeting on December 3, council met to discuss removing the Cairns and Mr Powell from the UCC and apologising to them. Instead it reaffirmed the staff decision and the council policy.
Mrs Cairns compared last year’s report with the 2019-20 document and found the most recent one appears to have duplicated figures from the previous year.
She has sent an email to Ms Black detailing where the errors occurred on pages 3, 9, 13, 16, 21 and 22 of the report.
“The figures are obviously duplicates,” she said. “It would be extremely unlikely for figures like pool entries or online library visits to be identical year to year.”
In addition to the errors in the reports, Mrs Cairns has already informed the council its minutes from the meeting don’t accord with the video recording of it.
She said at one stage an amendment from Cr Andrew Baker to a motion was voted on without being seconded, which is a clear breach of meeting procedure.
Clarence Valley mayor Ian Tiley has already gone on the record describing the meeting as a shambles.
He said the council should have admitted its mistakes and apologised to the residents.
Cr Tiley said a course of action for the council could be to not recognise the minutes from the meeting at the first meeting of the new council on February 22.
Mrs Cairns said while it was important the council cleared the residents of any wrongdoing it was also vital council become more transparent in dealing with the public.
She said she would make a deputation to the council on February 22 detailing the errors she has uncovered.
Mrs Cairns said she had also received an apology from Ms Black over an entry in the council business paper to the December 3 meeting, which claimed council had mentioned the behaviour of the residents to police. See article on P19 of last week’s Northern Rivers Times.
While she accepted the apology, she described it as “hollow and disingenuous”.
She said council’s actions over the past three years had been stressful and humiliating for her and her husband and Mr Powell.
“Not only with what is in the 3 December 2021 Business Paper, but how we have been treated by Council executive and senior staff since 2019 to our reasonable and valid questions
“This also included having received the UCC and having no right of reply or natural justice.”

Clarence Valley News

Body of man located in floodwaters near Grafton

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THE NSW NORTHERN RIVERS TIMES NEWSPAPER

Body of man located in floodwaters near Grafton

The body of a man has been recovered from a property in the state’s north.

Officers attached to Coffs/Clarence Police District were contacted about 8.30pm yesterday (Thursday 24 March 2022), after reports a 72-year-old man went missing after attempting to cross a flooded roadway on foot near Coaldale Road, Coaldale, about 35km north of Grafton

A search involving local police located the body of a man about 9.15pm a short distance away in a gully.

While he is yet to be formally identified, it is believed to be that of the missing man.

Inquiries are continuing.

A report will be prepared for the information of the coroner.

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Clarence Valley News

Appeal fails: John Edwards behind bars till 2035

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Appeal fails: John Edwards behind bars till 2035

Appeal fails: John Edwards behind bars till 2035

By Tim Howard

A former Grafton school teacher jailed for 24 years for the murder of his wife nearly seven years ago, will serve out his entire sentence.
John Wallace Edwards, 65, was convicted of the murder of Sharon Edwards in December 2019 and jailed for 24 years with a non-parole period of 18 years.
On February 14 a panel of three Supreme Court judges, Chief Justice Tom Bathurst and Judges, Stephen Rothman and Hament Dhanji unanimously rejected Edwards’ appeal against his sentence.
At the October 20 hearing, Edwards counsel argued a four-point appeal that the trial judge should have directed the jury to the availability of a manslaughter verdict, and that the murder verdict was unreasonable and could not be supported with the available evidence.
But the Appeal Court was not swayed.
They found the trial judge, Robert Hulme, had provided the jury with sufficient direction on the possibility of a manslaughter verdict.
In addition the defence, while aware of the possibility of a manslaughter verdict, had not argued for it until late in the trial.
Central to the four interconnected points of the appeal was Edwards post-offence behaviour.
Edwards counsel argued the judge should have directed the jury that this behaviour should be described as “intractably neutral”, that is, it was equally indicative of manslaughter or murder.
But the appeal judges found Edwards behaviour after the events of March14-15, 2015, was that of a murderer.
Although they disagreed Edwards had provided “13 different accounts” of what happened on the night of his wife’s disappearance and almost certain death, there were certainly a number of different stories.
They found the differing versions of events and other lies Edwards told indicated he had been prepared to inflict serious injuries that could have led to the death of his wife.
One of the accounts, told to two of his sons, was he had a physical altercation with this wife on the night of her disappearance.
“…yeah he said, ‘He’d, like he’d snatched the iPad, he’d wrestled with her’…he had her hand pinned behind her back or her side and he slammed her on the floor and she hit her head and then she got up and went to bed‘,” a son told the trial jury.
The appeal judges also said evidence he had broken a bone in his right hand, described by a doctor as a “boxer’s fracture”, around the time of the offence, indicated he had been capable of inflicting a blow powerful enough to cause serious injury leading to death.
In his finding Justice Dhanji noted: “There was no evidence of any disturbance consistent with an argument on the night of the deceased’s death. Nothing of this nature was heard by the neighbours. Nor was there any evidence that the applicant was intoxicated. Even if any assault was unplanned, these matters point away from an uncontrolled outbreak of violence. In these circumstances the possibility that the applicant struck the deceased with a blow sufficiently hard to break a bone in his hand suggests a level of force consistent with an intention to cause, at least, really serious injury.
“Further, if, for example the deceased hit her head as a result of falling on a hard surface after such a blow or otherwise, death was unlikely to have been instant. For the reasons discussed above, not seeking assistance and then disposing of the body suggest, a disregard for the deceased, and point away from an intention to do something less than inflict really serious injury.”
Edwards’ determination to withhold the location of his wife’s remains, despite the pain it caused the rest of the family was another indication his wife’s death had been deliberate rather than accidental.
Other indicators, such as Edwards realisation his wife was about to leave him for another man, and financial concerns about their jointly owned properties strengthened the case for a verdict of murder.
The murder of Mrs Edwards, who disappeared after a night out with friends in Grafton in 2015, shocked the Clarence Valley.
Initially treated as a missing person investigation, on April 1 it turned into a homicide case and Edwards and the couple’s three sons made impassioned pleas for people who knew anything to come forward.
The popular teacher had no enemies, but it emerged her marriage to Edwards was finished.
During the trial it emerged she had rekindled a relationship with an old flame, William ‘Billy’ Mills, who had been with her on the night of her disappearance and they had plans to live together.
By mid 2017 and despite no sign of her body, police were convinced Edwards had killed his wife and he was formally charged with murder.
At his trial, which concluded in December 2019, a jury found Edwards guilty of his wife’s murder. Son Josh said after the trial he no longer considered Edwards his father for what he’d done to his mum.
Edwards has never hinted at the location of his wife’s body.
He will serve out the remainder of his sentence of 24 years with a minimum of 18 years non-parole from June 20, 2017. His earliest release date is June 19, 2035.

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Clarence Valley News

Grafton’s time-old royal tradition leads the way against gender discrimination

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Grafton’s time-old royal tradition leads the way against gender discrimination

Grafton’s time-old royal tradition leads the way against gender discrimination

By Lesley Apps

FOR the first time in its 88-year history the Jacaranda Queen program will welcome kings and ambassadors into its entourage.

While the role of Jacaranda Queen is traditionally female, to honour the inclusive spirit that festival manager and the committee have been championing over the past few years, people of all gender identities are welcome to enter the 2022 event.

Reigning Grafton Jacaranda Queen, Hanna Craig said the committee decided the time was right to recognise the diversity of gender and update the festival’s program accordingly.

“We are an inclusive organisation and welcome everyone and support safe and diverse spaces, and this move is in line with this approach,” Miss Craig said.

She said accepting how someone identifies was the right step to take.

“Acknowledging this not only supports the Festival’s contemporary approach but paves the way for other (similar) events to do the same.”

Festival manager Mark Blackadder said all entrants will be referred to as Jacaranda candidates (junior or senior).

“Winners can choose whatever title they feel comfortable with, Queen, King or Ambassador.”

While the festival committee was looking forward to welcoming a more progressive competition this year it’s not the first time the format has deviated from its all-female tradition.

In 2003 two male candidates, Wayne Herbert and Scott Kelly, showed interest in entering, causing varying degrees of controversy as the local paper reported at the time before both pulled out of the competition.

It reported Mr Kelly had partnered two Queens vying for the title in the past but wanted to be called King, while Mr Herbert, then manager of the town’s Gay and Lesbian Resource Centre, was happy with the Queen title but withdrew his candidacy after challenging the festival’s fundraising rules after he wanted to nominate his own charity rather than support the annual event.

While the Jacaranda Committee at the time (almost 20 years ago) was supportive where possible, it generated plenty of press coverage and community conversation, prompting a former queen to write to the paper to say the behaviour of the male candidates was “inappropriate and distasteful” and made a mockery of the event.

Nominations for the 2022 Grafton Jacaranda Festival Queen, King or Ambassador are now open. A candidates information evening will be held at the Grafton District Services Club on Friday, March 18, 6pm. For more information on the Grafton Jacaranda Festival visit: www.jacarandafestival.com

Caption: Reigning Jacaranda royal party, from left: Junior Jacaranda Princess: Aaliyah Scarlet Roach, Jacaranda Princess: Breeze Paine, Jacaranda Queen: Hanna Craig, Junior Jacaranda Queen: Brooke Chapman. Change is in the air with a new gender inclusive Jacaranda Candidate program for 2022.

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